The City of Vancouver has implemented a neighbourhood planning project entitled the "West End Community Plan (WECP)". The West End is home to a mosaic of unique people and places. A community plan has been prepared to meet the needs of the community in regards to new developments and future growth. The City has approved the plan to accommodate for an additional 10,000 people in the West End over a period of 30 years.

With an allowance for higher density, property prices have increased along major thoroughfares and significant real estate transactions have popped up. The former Crown Life building located at 1500 West Georgia Street has been acquired by Bosa Properties and Kingswood Properties for a whopping $120 million. This plan allows for the opportunity to develop a 400-foot tower atop a pre-existing 6,500ft2 courtyard.

The estimated hike in density made the property that much more valuable and was a key factor in closing the deal. Lorne Segal, Kingswood president, stated, "[c]learly, you couldn't justify the purchase price for the building itself. The bonus was that at some point there would be an opportunity to develop something that would complement the building". 

The implementation of the WECP has affected a third site that has recently been acquired by an unnamed buyer. Back in June, the Best Western Sands Hotel on Davie Street was a transaction that was ranked as being one of the most expensive per unit in B.C. history with a transaction price of $31M. Avison Young principal, Bob Levine, stated, "[a]t the Stands site, [the city] will limit you to have 20% social housing or if you don't do condominiums you could do market rental". Overall, the WECP has shed light on the value and growth potential in the downtown core where land is hard to come by

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Mortgage rates currently remain at historically low rates, however, they are expected to increase in the last quarter of the year and will continue to increase into 2015. It is sitting at 3.14% (for a one-year term) and is forecasted to stay stable in this upcoming quarter. As per the BCREA, the mortgage rate forecast is as follows:


*Data is average of weekly rates. Source: Bank of Canada.

In response to bond yields seeing a downwards trend, lenders have offered historically low mortgage rates, which is great news for homebuyers.

Economic Outlook
In relation to Canada's economy, its weak start was quickly overturned by strong economic growth in the second quarter with a 3.1% real GDP increase. This growth was largely attributed to the number of exports. It is expected that the economic growth will remain relatively strong. 

Interest Rate Forecast
The current labor market is still seeing high unemployment rates and unstable employment growth. The BCREA expects that the Bank of Canada will "continue to take a cautious approach to monetary policy until it sees concrete signs that the economy is growing sustainably above trend". It is predicted that the Bank will lower interest rates however, a tighening of interest rates are forecasted for the second half of 2015.

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Below are five most common home problems homeowners face. By identifying minor issues before they end up being full-blown issues, you could potentially save yourself hundreds of dollars.

(1) Improper Surface Grading and Drainage

As a result of improper surface grading, most basements will end up leaking through water aggregation. Homeowners should examine their own lot grading and take the necessary steps to prevent flooding and property damage. The causes of basement water damage issues are generally external. To address the issue at hand, homeowners can divert water away from the building, provide drainage along the basement perimeter, protect the foundation walls against moisture and ensure they have durable grading near the basement and over the entire lot. 

(2) Roof Damage

Roof problems, obvious or unforeseen, are always a hassle and undoubtedly a significant expense for homeowners. The most common issue with any roof would be roof leaks and moisture. It is recommended that roof inspections be done at least twice a year - spring and fall. The best place to look is from the interior, namely from the attic.

Here are four things to look for on the inside: (1) Places where the roof deck is sagging (2) Signs of water damage or leaking (3) Dark spots and trails (4) Outside light showing through roof.

Upon discovery of water damage, do not assume that the roof needs to be replaced altogether. If the roof was properly installed and is less than 15-20 years old, it can most likely be repaired rather than replaced. 

(3) Plumbing Issues

Plumbing defects are another common problem homeowners experience one time or another. Most common plumbing problems are quite easy to fix. By doing the repairs yourself, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars.

(4) Improper Electrical Wiring 

Improper Electrical Wiring is another common issue that homeowners run into. This includes amateur wiring connections, insufficient electrical service to the house and inadequate overload protection.

(5) Poor Overall Maintenance

Not properly maintaining your home can transform your home into an allergen haven. People who live in homes subject to damp conditions are more prone to allergies, colds and other respiratory ailments.

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In this blog, we'll be touching base again on the demand for housing in the Greater Vancouver Region. As stated in the previous blog, the demand for housing has slightly outpaced the supply for it. In addition, we will be delving into the current status of the real estate market.

The real estate market is cyclical in which several factors such as interest rates, employment growth, investment growth, construction and immigration influence this cycle. These factors affect whether it is a buyer's, seller's or balanced market.

[1] A buyer's market is when the housing supply is greater than the demand. This generally results in housing prices dropping over a period of time due to the fact that home owners may be eager to sell their property.

[2] On the other end of the spectrum is the seller's market. It is when interest rates are low so there are many qualified buyers but not many homes for sale. In this case, buyers must make quick decisions in order to secure a property due to the housing scarcity. Buyers also face competition with multiple offers on the home they are interested in buying and consequently, housing prices may rise.

[3] Lastly, a balanced market is where there supply and demand are fairly equal to one another (not necessarily at equilibrium though). 

Ray Harris stated, "[o]ur market today sits on the cusp between a balance and seller's market". To measure market activity, the Sales-to-Listings ratio is often utilized. This tool measures the balance between demand and supply and the market categorization is based off of the ratio.

-- A ratio of three sales for five listings means we are in a seller's market (when the ratio is greater than 55%).
-- A ratio of less than seven sales for every 20 listings means we are in a buyer's market (when the ratio is less than 35%).
-- A ratio between 35 - 55% would be considered a balanced market.

 *Market Type Sales Ratio as per the Real Estate Board of Vancouver & most industry analysts.

Source: REBGV Market Type

     
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The real estate industry is a key economic driver in BC. Despite the preconceived notions of Vancouverites, the Greater Vancouver housing market is seeing demand for housing slightly outpace the supply. We continue to see incremental gains in home values, depending on the neighbourhood and property type. According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), residential property sales in the Greater Vancouver area has reached 3,061 in July alone, making it the fourth consecutive month that the Greater Vancouver market has exceeded 3,000 sales (McLeod, 2014). Prior to this upsurge in sales, the housing sales have not surpassed this sales mark since June 2011. 

The MLS Home Price Index (HPI) measures home price trends and home price inflation/deflation in residential markets within territories of participating real estate boards in Canada (MLS, 2014). The HPI composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is presently at $628,000. For a single family detached unit, the benchmark price is sitting at $980,500. An overview of the property types and their benchmark price in their respective neighbourhood can be found here: MLS Home Price Index. Benchmarks represent a typical property within each market. 

All in all, the housing market in the Greater Vancouver region has been steadily picking up and although supply is continually increasing, the demand for housing has slightly outpaced supply. 

Below you will find the Residential Average Price in the Greater Vancouver region. As you can see, there has been quite some fluctuation over the past 4.5 years. Residential median prices in July 2014 are sitting at around $805,061. 

 Source: The Canadian Real Estate Association

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